Drilon backs Aquino’s use of unreleased pork funds for Bohol, Cebu quake rehab



Senate President Franklin Drilon PRIB FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III could tap some P12 billion worth of unreleased pork barrel to aid the thousands of families reeling from last Tuesday’s powerful quake in Central Visayas, without violating the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on pork barrel fund releases.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said Sunday that senators intended to pass a resolution expressing their sense that the President could tap the remaining pork barrel to augment his calamity fund.

Drilon said this could be done even if the high tribunal has issued a temporary restraining order on the release of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) in the 2013 national budget.

“Even if there is a case against PDAF, this can be used to augment the calamity fund. Even if SC declares it unconstitutional, this can be transferred to savings because the Constitution allows realignment,’’ he said in a radio interview.

Regardless of how the high court would rule on the PDAF, Drilon said the Senate would adopt a resolution expressing its sense that the remaining PDAF should be added to the President’s calamity fund.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier said that some P12.27 billion in PDAF for the second semester in 2013 has not been released. The President ordered the suspension of PDAF in the face of public outrage over its misuse.

Drilon could not say how much of this was allotted for the senators, and the representatives. If at all, the Senate resolution would apply only to the unreleased PDAF of the 24 senators, who are allotted P200 million each.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake has left 180 people dead and displaced nearly 400,000 others in Bohol, in the nearby island of Cebu and Siquijor.

The high court, which issued a TRO on the PDAF, has wrapped up oral arguments for and against the constitutionality of the lump sum amount in the national budget. It’s expected to come out with a ruling next month before Congress finalizes the 2014 General Appropriations Act.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has asserted that the GAA provisions on the PDAF in 2013 were “riddled with unconstitutionalities.’’

Drilon, who held a caucus with his colleagues centering on the pork barrel scam last Wednesday, said the chamber would decide on the language of the resolution.

“We will work it out how we will do it. Maybe authorizing the Malacañang, but to me, technically there’s no need for authorization because the realignment of funds is with the Executive,’’ he said.

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